The Immortal Principality of Ustalav (pronounced OO-stah-lahv) is a fog-shrouded realm of countless horrors, and a once-proud realm that was shattered by the clawed hands of the Whispering Tyrant.
The modern history of Ustalav began around 2361 AR, when numerous Varisian families settled the unclaimed land north of Lake Encarthan in the shadows of the Hungry Mountains. Ustalav did not become a true nation, however, until the ancient hero Soividia Ustav united the disparate Varisian settlements, creating the land that would bear his name. These clans gradually began to drive out the native orcish, Numerian, and Sarkorian inhabitants. For five centuries after Ustav’s conquest, the country existed in a state of near-constant feuding among the clannish Varisian families, who quarreled with each other over various small issues. To prevent a civil war, Princess Carmina Ustav split the nation into sixteen counties in 2862 AR, parceling up the land, and assigning it in perpetuity to the various noble families. Each county’s ruler possessed significant autonomy, but they in turn owed their allegiances to the monarch (descended from Ustav). This change eased tensions and led to a golden age of growth and prosperity.
Ustalav lies on the very northern tip of Lake Encarthan, surrounding much of Avalon Bay. Ustalav’s position is precarious, as it is located next to two hostile nations: the orc-inhabited Hold of Belkzen to the west and the demon-infested Worldwound to the north. It neighbours to the east are not much better. They may be human nations, but include the tyrannical land of the living god Razmiran, the constant chaos of the River Kingdoms, and barbarian kingdom of Numeria. Considering the nature of its neighbours, it is no wonder that many of Ustalav’s inhabitants are insular and distrusting of foreigners. Only along the southwestern border does Ustalav find a friendly (if highly suspicious) neighbour, the country of Lastwall. The geography of Ustalav is hugely varied, split into thirteen different counties, each with its own unique geography. If there is one geographic feature that dominates the entire country, it is the Hungry Mountains that encapsulate an entire county in their stony reaches.
Since the ancient days when it was first unified, Ustalav has been ruled by a single king. Unfortunately, the line of kings was broken during the Whispering Tyrant’s reign, and the current rulers are but a shadow of their predecessors. Leadership of the land has become particularly contentious since the death of the so called “Eunuch Prince” Valislav Ordranti, who left behind no official heir when he died in 4674 AR. His brother, Prince Aduard Ordranti III, stepped into the mantle of monarch, a role he was ill-suited for. The whole affair was complicated even further when the Eunuch Prince’s longtime companion, Millaera Caliphvaso, gave birth to a bastard child she claimed was the son of the Eunuch Prince. The claim caused a huge scandal and Millaera disappeared under mysterious circumstances shortly after making these claims. Her child, Reneis Ordranti, was adopted and raised by the child’s devious and conniving aunt, the Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso. Rumor has it that the Countess has her eyes firmly set upon the throne as soon as Reneis reaches manhood. Other darker rumors whisper that she may have her incestuous eyes set on becoming queen, willing to marry her own nephew to get it.
Beneath the scheming and squabbling of the decadent royal family, the actual running of the country falls (for the most part) to its lesser nobility. Ustalav was split into sixteen counties centuries ago to stop squabbling between various factions. Of the original sixteen, only twelve remain, not including the undead-haunted wasteland now known as Virlych. Of these, nine are governed by their noble families, while the remaining three are ruled in a more unusual, although no less exploitative way. In 4670 AR, the northern province of Lozeri overthrew their hereditary duke, placing a council of prominent citizens in charge. This approach caught on, and soon two of the neighboring counties had also thrown off the rule of the nobility in bloodless coups. These three states, Lozeri, Canterwall, and Vieland are together known as the Palatinates.
Split into twelve different provinces, each of Ustalav’s counties is a unique realm ruled by either a family of nobles or a council of ruling citizens. The ruler of each realm has to answer to the monarch, Prince Ordranti, but is allowed much independence. The counties are generally divided into two different types, the Soivoda and the Palatinates. The Soivoda are ruled by the hereditary noble family that has ruled them since they were created millennia ago. They are the most numerous and take up all of Ustalav except for its northwestern corner. The other set of counties are known as the Palatinates which are not ruled by any sort of feudal nobility, but are instead run by councils of prominent citizens. Finally there is Virlych, not technically a county, but the remains of two counties, Virholt and Grodlych, that were left a wasteland nearly a millennia ago. Now the forsaken land of Virlych is not inhabited and is part of Ustalav in name only.
After centuries of abuse and exploitation, the people of Ustalav are a highly suspicious and superstitious lot. Descendants of Varisian wanderers who immigrated there millennia ago, many still hold to their traditional beliefs. Among these are the worship of the goddess of travelers, Desna. Their long occupation and enslavement at the hands of the lich, however, also left its marks. The worship of Pharasma, who abhors the undead, and the Pallid Princess Urgathoa, who reveres the undead, are common in the nation as well.